As noted in the NACM CORE© competency on Public Trust and Confidence (available at https://nacmcore.org/competency/public-trust-and-confidence/), court leaders have a role in helping the judicial branch to be viewed with public trust and confidence. Leaders can do this by listening to how the court is performing. This posting illustrates ways for a court leader to leverage their role to be a listening leader about public perceptions of the court.
Court leaders support excellence in the operations of courts. They do this by creating and sustaining a culture of good operational practices, transparency, and accountability. Three examples for a leader to listen for public viewpoints are provided here. These are not all inclusive but may prompt creative thinking about how you can be a listening leader.
- Evaluate the “lines of service” or access points where court users and litigants access services. By being aware of these access points and measuring them, a court leader can consider services provided, seek ways to expand access, and enhance operations. Those points may include one or more of the following (and others!). These can be measured and counted:
- On site customer services provided
- Contacts via the web or internet pages
- Contacts via phone
- Litigant appearances via remote appearance platforms
- Numbers of documents submitted or retrieved
- In-courtroom or scheduled events that have occurred
- Compliance actions taken by litigants
- Financial payments and transactions completed
2. Obtain and listen to feedback from court users. A variety of feedback mechanisms can be used: court user surveys; on site comment cards; and feedback prompts for customers using the court website.
Court user surveys. Comprehensive surveys can be given to court litigants and users to obtain feedback about perceptions of access to the court, views on the fairness of case handling, information provided, and treatment by court professionals. The National Center for State Courts has published a litigant survey methodology – CourTools Measure #1 (Information about the CourTools measures, including Measure #1, Public Access and Fairness, may be retrieved at https://www.courtools.org/trial-court-performance-measures ). Responses can inform court leaders about litigant opinions.
From Common Pleas Court Cuyahoga County – Courtools Measurement 1 | Access & Fairness (cuyahogacounty.us) and New Jersey Courts – report.pdf (njcourts.gov)
On site customer comment cards. Some courts provide hard copy comment cards for litigants and customers to complete while on site or mail back later. Examples are noted here.
From Scottsdale City Court (on site comment card, hard copy), New York Courts – https://www.nycourts.gov/IP/qualityservice/QualityServiceComments.pdf, and the Justice Innovation Lab at Stanford – https://justiceinnovation.law.stanford.edu/court-feedback-cards/.
Website feedback and comment forms. Given that many litigants access information about the courts, we are seeing increased interest in assessing the quality of services and information that litigants receive from the court website. Typical questions posed in online surveys are noted below.
From Scottsdale City Court – City of Scottsdale – Court Feedback Survey (scottsdaleaz.gov) and the Delaware courts – Family Court Feedback Form – Feedback – Delaware Courts – State of Delaware
3. Use and evaluate overall court performance measures to assess court performance. This means that court leaders need to be comfortable and conversant with the information collected about operations. Information about this was included in a prior posting about accountability and court performance (see https://courtleader.net/2020/08/31/leadership-and-accountability/). Two examples of court statistics are noted here.
From Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court – https://cp.cuyahogacounty.us/media/1939/m1.pdf and the Scottsdale City Court – Annual+Executive+Summary+FY+11-12.pdf (scottsdaleaz.gov)
In conclusion, court leaders can find ways to listen to information about how the court is perceived and performing – which are related to public trust and confidence. To listen, it helps to have channels for information. These summary examples of evaluating access points, customer feedback mechanisms, and tapping into court performance data can serve as those channels for court leaders to be listening leaders.